Friday, October 16, 2009

SFF - The TV / Motion Picture Adaptations

This subject has been at the back of mind since I started my first blog.

Not, you may ask, since the excellent trilogy of movies that made up the epic The Lord of the Rings? I hear you ask. Well, no. See, the thing is, I hadn't even discovered blogs yet. There might not even have been many of them (we're definitely spoiled for choice nowadays). And most of the discussion at that time took place in two groups - the one group being loyal followes of JRR Tolkien's work who were discussing the path Peter jackson took in adapting the novels for the big screen, the other group being those who had never even read the books before (shame on you!) and proceeded to either "Wow!" the movies, "It was okay, just too damn long," the movies, or not even watch it because "Faries and magic and crap like that isn't real, so I don't have time for it!" the movies. Now, I'm not saying there weren't discussions about future adaptations of SFF taking place - I'm saying that it just didn't seem to be anything particularly worth talking about. It was a coup, and most people thought it wouldn't be repeated.

But times have changed. I take as my prime examples the impending Pilot-shoot of George RR Martin's A Game of Thrones and the news that Peter V Brett's debut, The Painted Man / The Warded Man, is now optioned to become a motion picture. There are many more examples (the practically forgotten news of Terry Brooks' The Elfstones of Shannara movie, the -necessarily- dumbed-down The Legend of the Seeker. etc); practically every week new announcements are popping up, and there are a slew of projects busy taking shape as you read and a type this. My questions are the following:

1) What is the best medium for an adaptation - a TV series, done by those who know how (HBO?), or a movie done by a Hollywood studio?

2) If a motion picture is made, can the way these movies are made be changed to suit the material? For example, should SFF movies be longer, lets say 8 - 10 hours, with breaks in between? This would allow for proper character development, etc.

3) Which SFF novels (either stand-alone or in-series) do you think she be given an attempt?

4) Should we really take these movie- or TV-adaptions as seriously as we do? Author Steve Gould once said something to the effect of "The movie doesn't change my book in any way. There it is on the shelf - exactly the same as the day it was published."

For my part, in answer to the questions:

1) I vote for TV; TV offers not only the possibility of not having to change events so that the entire plot fits into 2, 2.5 hours on screen, but also allows for a more sustained (and therefore, more memorable) experience.

2) If movies have to be made, then I vote make them longer. It's the only way.

3) Steven Erikson's Malazan series and James Barclay's Raven-series are at the top of my list of must-be-done. :-)

4) Absolutely not. It's excruciating having to wait for A Game of Thrones and The Eye of the World, and I'm positive that most of us will be disappointed to some degree, but like Steve Gould says, the books will never change. That's were it began, that's where it'll end. :-)

So, what do you all think?


Mike said...

OK, Dave, here goes:

1) I agree, TV's the way to go. Most books really need the "spread-out-ness" that a TV series affords.

2) I don't think movies are a good medium for most books, no matter what you try. It's a rare book that doesn't spend a great deal of time on the "internals" of character, and that just doesn't adapt well to the big screen. Good SFF movies need to start with material written specifically for the big screen.

3) Hmmm, that's a hard one. I'd have to go with David Weber's Honor Harrington series. Although the books have a lot of character development in them, the military scifi material would provide plenty of action.

4) No way. When you compare the movie to the original novel of, say, Stephen King's Christine, you can see the two are really aimed at two different audiences; in this case, the movie is much more humorous while the novel is much scarier. When the two are that much different, it's difficult to take the movie too seriously.

Hope that covers it all. By the way, I enjoy the blogs!

Mike Southern

Dave-Brendon de Burgh said...

Hey Mike, thanks for the comments!

I have to agree about Military SF - they are definitely excellent movies waiting to be be made. And your point about Christine is a good one - have you heard they're remaking IT? They better do a good job this time! :-)


Mike said...

Remaking IT? Now, that's scary! I think IT may be King's best novel other than The Stand, what with the whole multiple-viewpoint/dual time frame thing; but that makes it way too complicated for almost any visual format I can imagine. The miniseries was just flat.

BTW, good luck with your novel. I've been working on a Greek myth/sword & sorcery novel in spurts for some time. Sometimes it's hard to keep up the emotional energy that writing fiction requires. At least you're surrounded by writers who can encourage you!

Dave-Brendon de Burgh said...

I remembered loving the mini-series when I was younger, and when I re-watched it I thought, "Huh? This is crap!", so I'm pretty chuffed that it'll be redone, but it's definitely going to be a tall order. :-)

Thanks, Mike - I completed almost 3000 words last night, introduced 4 characters, and the world will be ending in an hour, so it's all good. :-)

Mike said...

I don't know about that "world will be ending in an hour" stuff... but the rest of it sounds really good! It's amazing how much difference a little excitement can make when you're creating (or ending) a new world, isn't it?